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How can we fix Northbourne Avenue?

By Leon Arundell - 21 April 2017 37

Northbourne Avenue

Northbourne Ave

Canberra’s central business district is divided by a fifty-metre wide roadway that is set to become even more dangerous, and even more dysfunctional.

Northbourne Avenue’s six general traffic lanes, two shared paths and two cycle lanes will soon be joined by two light rail tracks. Fifteen thousand light rail passengers will use the Alinga Street terminus each day. Passengers travelling to or from north of the terminus will have to negotiate Canberra’s most dangerous place for pedestrians – the intersection of Northbourne Avenue with Bunda and Rudd Streets.

Pedestrian crossings currently connect only to the east and west. But light rail passengers will want to travel in all directions, especially south-east to the bus interchange. Better pedestrian crossings could improve safety, allow quicker bus-tram connections, and help the Government to increase the public transport share of all work trips to 16% by 2026.

Northbourne Avenue is dangerous for pedestrians. It’s the only part of a major shopping area in the ACT where pedestrians face vehicles travelling legally at 60 km/h. Two pedestrians have been killed on Northbourne Avenue since 2006. The Territory’s three most dangerous locations for pedestrian injuries are the intersections of Northbourne Avenue with Bunda and Rudd Streets, with Macarthur and Wakefield Avenues, and with London Circuit. It might be even worse, but for traffic signal improvements that reduced the number of risky crossings.

Northbourne Avenue is dangerous for cyclists. Its intersection with Morphett Street in Dickson is the ACT’s worst location for cyclist injuries. Six of the seven most dangerous locations are along Northbourne Avenue.

Northbourne Avenue is also dangerous for motor vehicles. It averages a crash every two days, and an injury a month. The intersection of Northbourne Avenue with Barry Drive and Cooyong Street had 61 crashes and four injuries during 2013 and 2014.

Walter and Marion Griffin designed Northbourne Avenue for a city that would not need traffic signals because only a few of its 30,000 inhabitants would own cars. They would have designed Northbourne Avenue very differently if they had anticipated that Canberra would have 240,000 passenger vehicles and 300 signalised intersections. Its wide medians mean that most pedestrians crossing to the diagonally opposite corner of a Northbourne Avenue intersection have to wait at a red signal before commencing to cross the side road, wait at another red signal before starting to cross Northbourne Avenue, and then wait at a third red signal before completing their crossing. At the intersections with London Circuit, with Alinga Street, and with Rudd and Bunda Streets, vehicles turning right have to wait at up to two red signals.

Northbourne Avenue’s wide medians mean six less seconds of traffic signal green time, per cycle, than at normal intersections. Reduced green time has a disproportionate effect on peak period congestion delays.

Northbourne Avenue’s intersection with Rudd and Bunda Streets is the epicentre of Canberra’s morning congestion. Traffic banks up from there until it blocks the intersection with Barry Drive and Cooyong Street. This causes a kilometre-long cascade of congestion, that partly blocks every intersection back to Ipima Street.

The parkland along the centre of Northbourne Avenue has twice the total area of Glebe Park. But few people use it because it’s all within fifteen metres of the noise, fumes and danger of three lanes of 60 km/h traffic.

Planning Minister Mick Gentleman said that he intended to create environments that are child- and age-friendly and support cycling and walking, and noted that community and stakeholders emphasised the need to adopt a placemaking approach that focuses on pedestrians first, cyclists second, public transport third than private vehicles.

How can we apply those principles to make Northbourne Avenue a safer, more efficient, and more enjoyable space?

Leon Arundell is Chair of Living Streets Canberra.

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37 Responses to
How can we fix Northbourne Avenue?
JC 12:53 am 25 Apr 17

Ps the trees and grass will grow back. Just like last time the trees were replaced 20 odd years goo.

JC 12:52 am 25 Apr 17

dungfungus said :

MenaP said :

With roundabouts instead of traffic lights!

Actually, I am advised that when the trams start trundling down Moonscape Avenue with their right of way, no right turns from the motor vehicle lanes (across the tramway) will be allowed.

This is sure to help ease congestion.

A melodramatic over miss-representation. There will be one possibly two minor intersections where right turns won’t be allowed. And not so as to reduce congestion either.

The one that comes to mind is Rudd Street in the city. Already an intersection where right turning traffic has to turn and stop. Low (turn) volume and easily replaced by turning right (if south bound) onto Barry drive and into left into Moore Street. Actually my wife works on Moore street and this already the faster way to go anyway.

And if heading north few if any turn right anyway since Bunda Street became a shared zone, but again go to Cooyong Street and back if you need to.

dungfungus 1:36 pm 23 Apr 17

MenaP said :

With roundabouts instead of traffic lights!

Actually, I am advised that when the trams start trundling down Moonscape Avenue with their right of way, no right turns from the motor vehicle lanes (across the tramway) will be allowed.

This is sure to help ease congestion.

PMB 12:15 pm 23 Apr 17

The city could do with a bypass, a tunnel starting before Dickson and coming out the other side of the little hill could probably reduce 50% of the traffic that currently has to use the city as a route rather than a destination. The nice landscapes we have don’t get ruined with another big road, and every person in Canberra who works in the city is given better access without having to build individual solutions for each of them. Even traffic from the south would benefit because there’s not a traffic jam in the city that is contributing to their delays. Every surrounding road, not just Northbourne, would see less congestion, rat-run bypasses currently used a thing of the past. Tram gonna look great I’m sure, but it’s not a problem solving solution.

PMB 11:35 am 23 Apr 17

@Bryan. Living in a ground floor place along Northbourne, I can certainly tell you were all the cockroaches went.

Bryan 7:22 pm 22 Apr 17

Did anyone even think about the fate of the birds and animals whose habitat was suddenly removed. ? I and others saw numbers of dead magpies in Garema Place and City Walk which were the result of territorial disputes.

bigred 4:04 pm 22 Apr 17

tim_c said :

And 70% of crashes involving pedestrians are entirely the fault of the pedestrian. Teach them to wait for the signals if they want to stay safe.

The whole concept of strict legal liability for causing a crash does nothing to prevent the event occurring. Everyone needs to take a giant step back and pay greater attention to assessing risk. I can advise from personal experience that running over a drunk crossing at the wrong spot does have a personal impact on the driver as well as making a mess of your vehicle – blood and hair are very difficult to remove.

MenaP 2:57 pm 22 Apr 17

With roundabouts instead of traffic lights!

ChrisinTurner 2:15 pm 22 Apr 17

A good start would be to recognise that Northbourne Ave (through Civic) is inside the City pedestrian area and should be part of the 40km/hr zone.

Queanbeyanite 12:58 pm 22 Apr 17

Nothing you can do about it Leon, because we can’t all work from home.
I scanned Mr Gentleman’s brochure and it certainly sounds idyllic. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could live 15 mins walk from work in a local shared multi-department office. Just sack any bludgers that can’t be trusted to actually do any work if they’re not watched all the time.

Leon Arundell 10:51 am 22 Apr 17

tim_c said :

And 70% of crashes involving pedestrians are entirely the fault of the pedestrian.

What is the basis of this claim? A 1996 report from the Federal Office of Road Safety said that 74% of pedestrians killed on roads were found to be at fault. Obviously the dead pedestrians weren’t able to argue their case before the coroners, and this statistic doesn’t apply to the 293 non-fatal pedestrian crashes (of a total of 300) that have occurred in Canberra since 2012.

george2582 9:43 am 22 Apr 17

The idea that the central road spine can place cars last is not feasible. It is inherently Multiuse and deconfliction should be the aim with special emphasis on key locations. Special emphasis on pedestrian issues around the cbd and good crossing options generally. You’d think the dedicated spaces for trams opened up opportunities for dedicated bike lanes truly deconflicted from buses and cars wouldn’t you?

waynop 9:52 pm 21 Apr 17

So, Leon….
Explain to me how Melbourne deals with light rail, light and heavy traffic, pedestrians and cycle traffic, constantly for many many decades and how it does it badly.
What I see here is a pile of ‘Oh my gawd’s’ with no critique of how Northbourne was before they started the light rail vs impact of the light rail.
My classification of this article is “chicken little”

tim_c 12:56 pm 21 Apr 17

And 70% of crashes involving pedestrians are entirely the fault of the pedestrian. Teach them to wait for the signals if they want to stay safe.

dungfungus 11:27 am 21 Apr 17

“Fifteen thousand light rail passengers will use the Alinga Street terminus each day.”

As Michael Caton said in The Castle, “Tell him he’s dreamin'”

Canberra Metro or whoever ends up running the trolley folly will be lucky to get half that number.

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